Preps Talk

Butler puts away school ties for new rivalry


Butler puts away school ties for new rivalry

Bulls rookie swingman Jimmy Butler isnt conflicted. Although hes a loyal Marquette University product, when the Heat visit the United Center, he wont feel much allegiance to his fellow ex-Golden Eagle, Dwyane Wade.

That doesnt mean Butler suddenly hates the All-Star shooting guard and arguably biggest star ever produced by the Milwaukee school.

Still got Marquette love for each other, Butler insisted, following the teams Tuesday-afternoon practice at the Berto Center. I think thats one and the same for everybody who goes through there.

We ran open gym out there at Marquette, did Midnight Madness together, so weve played a little bit together, nothing major, he continued. But look at him: He works really, really hard obviously, so hes constantly working out. But good dude. Very, very good dude.

Butler hasnt played with Wade extensively, but when he did have the opportunity to participate with and observe the Chicago native, particularly during the NBA lockout, he came away impressed.

Ive watched him work out a few times and dude can play, the rookie told He goes hard in everything and he knows where he wants to get on the floor, and he works on the shots that hes going to take, so I think thats big. He can do a lot of different things, but he knows what hes good at, so when hes really, really good at something, he wants to perfect that.

Despite the rivalry between their respective teams, Wade even gave Butler some advice.

What everybody tells me: Go hard, stay inside of my game, Butler recounted. I think thats what got me there, so thats whats going to keep me here.

Butler has seen more playing time with Luol Deng currently sidelined to rest his ailing left wrist, but while Deng practiced Tuesday and could return for Wednesdays showdown, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau insisted, Were not afraid to put him out there, when asked about Butler.

More than likely, that means hed be matched up with fellow small forward LeBron James a challenge unto itself; Butler quipped, Try to stop him from scoring, when asked about his potential strategy to defend James but its not inconceivable that if he sees playing time, he could also guard Wade, something he has limited experience with.

At first, it was kind of nerve-wracking because it was him. Both pros now, but Im going to fight, just like everyone else does. Im not intimidated, but its a grind, thats for sure. Great player, so Ive got to give it my all, he said. Who knows? Well find out soon, I guess. A lot more studying to do, working with Griff, learning from Lu, so well find out soon.

Stagg's Kyle Neputy leads through action during offseason

Stagg's Kyle Neputy leads through action during offseason

While many athletes talk about leadership and the importance of being a leader, others let their actions do the talking. One of them is Stagg senior quarterback Kyle Neputy (6-foot-4, 234 pounds).

Neputy, who is signed and will play this fall at Cornell, participated in last year's annual Franklin Middle School Charity Dodgeball tournament. The tournament had such a positive impact on Neputy and his fellow Charger teammates that they decided to rally together and support a worthwhile cause for a second straight year. 

I had a chance to catch up with the Kyle Neputy at the sixth annual Franklin Middle School Dodgeball Tournament in Wheaton. Proceeds from the event benefited the Northern Illinois Food Bank, Cammy Can, Jack’s Army and Franklin Middle School. 

Neputy shares why he and his Stagg teammates decided to support the event. He also had a chance to reflect on making the move to Cornell later this year.

Life was a lot different last time the Blackhawks missed the playoffs

Life was a lot different last time the Blackhawks missed the playoffs

For the first time in a decade, the Blackhawks officially will not be in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With a 5-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday night at the United Center, the Blackhawks will be sitting at home mid-April instead of looking to add to their trophy case.

Exactly 366 days before, the Blackhawks actually became the first NHL team to clinch a playoff berth, also the result of a game against the Avs:

The last time the Blackhawks missed the playoffs, Denis Savard was the coach and Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were just 19 years old in the midst of their rookie seasons.

The next year, Joel Quenneville took over as coach after four games and led the Blackhawks all the way to the Conference Finals.

Of course, the following year (2009-10 season) brought the first of three Stanley Cups.

For perspective on how incredible this stretch has been for the Blackhawks, here's how the other professional Chicago sports teams spent 2008:

—The Bears finished 9-7 in Matt Forte's rookie year (he's since retired) with Kyle Orton as the starting quarterback and Lovie Smith as head coach.

—The Cubs led the National League in runs scored en route to a 97-win regular season...before falling flat against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS. Lou Piniella was still the manager and Theo Epstein was still three years away from coming to Chicago.

—The Bulls found some incredible luck, pulling the No. 1 overall pick and selecting Chicago native Derrick Rose. He helped the Bulls to a 41-41 season as a rookie under coach Vinny Del Negro.

—The White Sox lost to Joe Maddon and the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS after winning the AL Central under manager Ozzie Guillen. Carlos Quentin enjoyed a breakout season (36 HR, 100 RBI) while Gavin Floyd won 17 games. 

The Blackhawks still have eight games left before the 2017-18 season ends April 7.